The Life Story Grants

About The Life Story Grants

The trajectories of girls and women in the sex trade are often marked by many on-ramps into exploitation—poverty, violence, discrimination and system failure—and few exit ramps for girls and women who seek to leave. The NoVo Foundation learned about these often unseen realities from those who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation (CSE), over years of listening and partnership. In January 2018, we launched The Life Story: Moments of Change to illuminate these truths, lifting up the voices, experiences and insights of survivors.

In January 2020, the NoVo foundation launched The Life Story Grants — a $10 million, 3-year commitment for programs in the U.S that open exit ramps and close on-ramps to commercial sexual exploitation.

See a full list of the partners here.

NOTE: We are no longer seeking letters of inquiry for this initiative, but please check our website at a later date as other opportunities may be posted in the future.

About Commercial Sexual Exploitation

The NoVo Foundation is dedicated to catalyzing a transformation in global society, from a culture of domination and exploitation to one of equality and partnership. Ending the vulnerability of girls and women to all forms of exploitation and violence is core to that mission; centering those who experience the overlapping oppressions of racism, sexism, misogyny, xenophobia, transphobia and economic discrimination guides our approach.

From these communities, we have learned how the sex trade profits from their inequity. It is no coincidence that girls and women of color, Indigenous girls and women, immigrant girls and women, trans girls and women, and gender-nonconforming people are disproportionately impacted by this form of violence.

The vast majority of these girls and women enter the sex trade because of the failure of social systems to support them, and a dearth of economic options. Survivor after survivor has shared the same stories and patterns about various systems that have failed them—like schools, foster care, law enforcement, health clinics, housing, immigration. Systemic inequity and poverty enabled their exploitation in the first place.

Survivors also share that violence is inherent to the sex trade: emotional, psychological and physical. The impact of this violence can last a lifetime. The trauma can ripple across communities and be passed down through generations. It is trauma that has no place in a just and healthy society, and it cannot be regulated away.

System failures call for systems-based solutions

This is where we see an untapped opportunity for anyone who wishes to create lasting change in the lives of marginalized girls and women. Many practitioners in critical systems come into contact with people in sexual exploitation. By offering compassion, resources and opportunity, practitioners can close an on-ramp to exploitation—or open an exit ramp.

That is the vision of The Life Story and our related grantmaking: we believe far more can be done to close on-ramps into exploitation, earlier in the lives of girls and women, and far more can be done to open exit ramps and ensure that survivors have access to the support they need to thrive. The Life Story Grants will support system-focused work that addresses those in sexual exploitation today and those at-risk, answering short-term needs while building long-term wellbeing.